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Why celebrities adverts for diet aids should be banned

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In the modern world, there is no denying the power of the celebrity. A Love Island star can upload a photo of themselves in a dress and watch it sell out overnight, Kylie Jenner almost cancelled Snapchat with a single tweet, and marketing companies are spending more and more on celebrity endorsements and influencers each year. 

The influencing power of celebrities is fine when they’re using it to push a new pair of shoes or a must-have bag, and I will freely hold my hands up and admit that there’s a dress in my wardrobe that I only own because it looked really nice on Binky Felstead’s Instagram story. Celebrity marketing is great in a lot of ways, however, the ability to influence thousands of people with a single post can easily become dangerous. 

This week, the NHS’s leading doctor, Professor Stephen Powis, has called for a ban on celebrities advertising diet aids because of the damaging effect that they have on young people. This includes appetite suppressants, cleanses, shakes and slimming pills, the likes of which have been endorsed in the past by several Kardashians, Vicky Pattison and Katie Price, to name a few. 

In January, Kim Kardashian West uploaded a picture of herself sipping a Flat Tummy Co. meal replacement shake, claiming that they were “helping her to get her tummy back to flat” after Christmas. She also shared a discount code for the brand, encouraging girls to “start 2019 off right” and check them out. 

View this post on Instagram

#ad You guys all know I looove @flattummyco shakes. I've just restarted them (it's Day 2 today) and I’m already feeling so good. We had a huuuuge Christmas this year and between that, New Years and everything inbetween… I felt like it was impossible to fit in my regular work outs and eat healthy. But this program is giving me a kick in the right direction that I need. These meal replacement shakes are so good and they're helping me get my tummy back to flat. I’m already feeling amazing and I’m so excited for the next few weeks. Because they’re all about getting women back on track… they’ve got a 20% off sale going on right now, so if you want to start 2019 off right… trust me, you’re going to want to check them out. PS. I’m doing the chocolate program

For anybody that does not understand why that might be problematic, let's remember that Kim Kardashian has 126 million followers. That is 126 million people who will see her in her bathroom holding a shaker, looking like some impossibly toned goddess, and associate it with skipping dinner for a shake.

If that wasn't scary enough, according to Moju statistics, approximately 58% of Kim's following is made up of females aged 13 to 24. This means that by uploading this one single image to Instagram, Kim Kardashian has potentially reached 73 million young girls, many of whom are already facing a huge amount of pressure to look a certain way. 

On the one hand this is unethical, and brands which capitalise on the vulnerability of young impressionable people should definitely be called out for doing so - however, on a more worrying scale, it is dangerous. I don't need to cite any studies or research to prove that skipping meals and quick-fix weight loss schemes are unhealthy; we already know that.

However, I want to avoid undermining anybody who is taken in by celebrity endorsements. If Kim Kardashian had tried to sell me a part of her life when I was 16, less informed and more insecure, there is not a part of me that believes that I wouldn't have been sold. That is exactly why it is so dangerous.

Powis warned of the potential side effects as a result of weight loss products, stating that they are "at best ineffective and at worst harmful." This isn't just his opinion, this is medical fact, and it's one that many people who have used so-called "Skinny Teas" in the past know to be true. In a tweet, actress, body-positive activist and former National Student cover star Jameela Jamil admitted that she has had to deal with "digestion and metabolism problems for life" as a result of "miracle cures and laxative teas", and regularly calls out the celebrities who endorse them. Jameela has labelled Kim Kardashian as a "terrible, toxic influence." 

So, what can we do about it? At the very, very least, we should be cracking down on what is disclosed in posts that advertise weight loss aids. For example, a celebrity who posts advertising a skinny tea should have to disclose all other weight loss methods he or she uses, for example a personal training or diet plan, to make potential customers aware that the skinny tea is not the sole reason for any apparent weight loss. 

Recently, there has been a huge crackdown on celebrities who post sponsored content without disclosing that it is an advert, following a watchdog probe. If we can monitor that, there is no reason why we shouldn't be able to monitor anything else. Of course, it would be significantly easier to just ban the promotion of weight loss aids altogether. 

The more prominent social media becomes in all of our lives, the more important it becomes to control how it affects us. This is particularly important at an age where we don't know ourselves and need guidance. That guidance should come from positive accounts, which will tell you that whatever you're doing is just fine, not that you should be swapping dinner for a laxative tea.

You can read more about Jameela's thoughts on the diet industry in our magazine, here. 




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